The idea of mentorship is hardly a novel one – it’s been the primary way people have been passing down knowledge for Millenia.
Some of you may have a few mentors already. You may not even think such people as being ‘mentors’ as such.
Many more of you will think you don’t need one – you’re bright and experienced enough to make your business work, right? That may well be so, but there’s so many benefits to collecting mentors, with so few downsides, that it should certainly be a consideration worth pursuing for any business owner.
What even is a mentor?
A mentor relationship is not necessarily as ‘master/student’ as many people think, although this is the more traditionally accepted definition and model.
Mentors are usually a teacher, advisor, counselor, or someone who has reliable experience in a given field. They’re an ally who provides guidance and feedback, by drawing from their well of expertise and experience.
That said, mentors can come in all shapes and sizes. They can be peers, teachers, ex-employers, family, friends, and those in your life who simply offer encouragement. They may well even be more ‘junior’ than you.
“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living. If you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington
The kind of advice that sticks with you for life
The words of strong mentors can sometimes be helpful in solving short term problems or overcoming immediate hurdles, but they can be much more impactful than that.
Often the advice of a good mentor is not just problem solving, but mindset defining. These words can echo through your whole life and be a true source of ongoing inspiration that can be applied again and again to achieve success.
Even our own CEO at Reckon, Sam Allert, has strong attachments to the mentors he’s had over his career. He recently told us that his old mentor’s advice still rings in his head, all these years later, and were a driver of his success today. Sam told us that there’s one thing that stuck with him more than anything else,
“Very early in my business life, my old mentor once told me ‘If you want more, then do more’.
“That might sound simple but what he was telling me was to go above and beyond my defined role and success would follow. Whether you’re climbing the ladder by willingly taking on more responsibility than you’re given, or outdoing your business competitors by overachieving, don’t just do what you have to – do more, and you’ll get more.”
Mentors are a shortcut to knowledge acquisition
Why put in all the hard yards yourself when someone’s already done the legwork before you? Work smarter not harder!
One of the standout benefits of having mentors in business is that they can be a wealth of acquired knowledge and experience that took them years to earn.
Maybe it’s the best way to set up a sales funnel or a shortcut to getting more website visits. Perhaps it’s ways to organise your workday and prioritise tasks more efficiently. Maybe it’s even more granular and job specific like the best way to shape a surfboard or plate up food at a cafe.
The point is, you don’t need to read 100 books or do weeks of courses. With a good mentor, you can acquire hard won knowledge over a single chat. That’s a powerful advantage for anybody, in any field.
Mentors can help you avoid pitfalls and serious mistakes
A well-chosen mentor is indispensable in helping you avoid pitfalls and serious misjudgments. As they say – it’s always wise to learn from the mistakes of others.
While positive advice around the best ways to manage a business or improve sales is one way a mentor can assist, the other side of the coin is what not to do.
You can sidestep some serious complications in your business life by listening to those who’ve made mistakes. Maybe it’s about judging investments or undertaking compliance, maybe it’s about hiring the wrong people or entering the wrong market at the wrong time. Others have made these mistakes so that you don’t have to.
Mentors are also an important source of support and encouragement
It’s not all about acquiring knowledge and leveraging the experience of others – support and encouragement can be equally powerful.
This is where ‘non-professional’ mentors, or those not necessarily dialled into your industry can shine. While you may need an entrepreneurial mentor to help you get ahead of the business game and achieve greater success, there’s a lot to be said about a mentor who cheers you on.
More often than not, that kind of morale boosting encouragement can come from trusted relatives and friends. Maybe your parent or partner are actually mentors of yours without you realising.
When we recently chatted to one of our Reckon clients, Talk Therapist and owner of the Clearing Room, Katy Walker, she told us that her greatest source of inspiration and encouragement to start her own practice was her 18-year-old daughter.
“As a single parent with two daughters, opening my own business was very scary. My eldest daughter, Laney, played a massive part in me deciding to just go for it.”
Sitting down with her very first client late last year, Katy heard the words of her daughter Laney ringing in her head: “Mum, you’re not trying to do this anymore, you are doing it! It’s happening!”
“I remember having this really proud parenting moment when I realised that she, as a young adult moving out into the world, was mirroring back to me all of the support that I had given her. I really don’t think I could succeed in The Clearing Room without that support.”
Mentors can also be thought leaders you don’t know personally
Sometimes, it’s not such an easy task to look to your peer group or those in your life that can offer mentorship. Well, you’re in luck. With the explosion of social media and online thought leadership, you don’t have to look far for more passive forms of mentorship.
There are a plethora of online thought leaders and accomplished speakers that can offer forms of mentorship as well.
Although not as personal ang hands on as it could be, even things like TED Talks and webinars can be a powerful source of passive mentorship you can easily embrace.
Of course, you should always be aware of those whose ideas may have ulterior motives or people who spout erroneous information – use your best judgement here.
How to go about forming a relationship with mentors
So how do you form a relationship with a mentor? Many times, this is about seizing the opportunities that present themselves. Make sure to keep up good relations with those who have something to offer you, and vice versa.
Think about reaching out to:
- old managers or colleagues
- teachers or professors
- people you have met in your field who are successful
- professional business advisors
- counselors and therapists
- friends and family
Just be sure that you don’t blindly follow the advice of any one individual and that you have a relationship with your mentor based on mutual trust and respect. Always keep your head about you when consulting with mentors and be sure they know what they are talking about. Trust your gut!